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Take a Pick-Axe to Business!

One valuable business lesson I learned can also be applied to anything in life – from game design problems to arguments on Facebook. “PPPICACC” (pronounced “Pick-Axe”), it is an acronym for reminding yourself how to enhance your critical thinking skills. In short, it teaches you how to process a problem from everyone’s point of view then solve the problem that benefits everyone. Be sure to bookmark this page so you can always come back for a refresher! Here is what it stands for:
Points of View: Did you seek out and identify all relevant perspectives for the situation being evaluated? If you don’t consider every perspective, you may miss out on important, relative, information.

 

Purposes: For each point of view, did you explore and understand what you and the others want to accomplish and care about? In other words, did you dig deeper than just the surface of what they want, and do you really understand what you and the other parties want? If not, then you should continue asking questions until you fully understand. A good way to make sure you are all on the same page.

 

Problems: Did you formulate the problem or challenge from more than one point of view? Remember: A problem for you may not be a problem for someone else.

 

Information: Did you gather sufficient, accurate, and relevant information to solve the issue? If you don’t have enough information or the wrong information you may never come to a good conclusion, or you may all end up agreeing but to a bad idea. It is also essential to research information that opposes your solution/approach as well. Two reasons, first is it will help you reach a good conclusion that will be more likely to succeed. Second, this way when others come to disagree with you, you can have the information you need to explain how it is a good idea and address their concerns.

 

Concepts: Did you identify and explain the main concepts used as part of the formulation or solution approach? If you give a solution without re-stating what the solution is supposed to solve, then you may end up accidentally coming up with a solution that in reality doesn’t make sense. Plus it clears any confusion others might have ~ the other parties may think the solution is supposed to solve one thing, but in reality you mean for it to solve something else. This prevents a lot of unnecessary arguments.

 

Assumptions: These kill the potential for good conversations. So when you make business cases, marketing strategies, perform analyst, etc. always state what your assumptions are within your idea. Then ask yourself, “Did I question the validity of these assumptions?”,  “Did I examine the assumptions that allowed me to eliminate particular solutions?”, “Did I justify or can I justify otherwise hidden assumptions in the development of my solution?”

 

Conclusions: Is your solution clear and supported by logical deductions so that people can understand your approach? Is it consistent with your earlier points/inferences?

 

Consequences: One of the most important and probably hardest is: what are the potential positive and negative long-run consequences of your solution? This can be easily skewed by biases. I can’t tell you all how many times I’ve seen people come up with inconsistent ideas or presentations just to end it with, “As a result we are certain to succeed with little to no chance of failure.” This is because when we think of solutions and come up with one – of course we don’t think it will end up badly, it’s our solution! That is when you have to look at people’s incentives. Ask yourself, “If I was the other person, and I saw this solution/strategy get implemented, how would I respond?” And if you want to plan for worst case scenarios, just assume the other parties are going to be as profiteering as possible.

I’ll write more about how to think of incentives of others and better come up with possible consequences, but that will be for another day.
As for right now, just keep on playing!

Always have a Backup Plan – But Not Too Many!

You know the biggest mistake villains seem to always make? They never have a plan B in life.

The common bad-guy puts all of his eggs into one basket, then some goodie-to-shoe comes over and knocks over the whole thing! What does the villain do? Cry and cry until he dies or goes to jail. Although those are just fiction stories they do deliver a lesson: be smarter than the average villain, always have a plan B in life.

Throughout my life I have always had a big dream, an end goal for my legacy before I die, now how I get to that point is a mystery. That is why I always am coming up with ideas for how to achieve this dream. Along the way many of them failed, evolved, or (on the off chance) succeeded so then I could focus on the next step. But my point is that as the world reacts to your actions you must have a plan B (and if you can a C never hurts).

So for example, lets say you want to become a Digital Artist for a gaming company, then when you begin to look at how to achieve that goal, you should also be thinking, “What if this doesn’t end up being what I want? What if in 2 years I want to change my mind? Or what if the market chances and it becomes a struggle to get this job, what do I do then?” With this thinking process in the back of your mind, you should keep an open door for alternative paths, say that during college you meet someone who wants to give you an internship…as a secretary at his gaming company! Not exactly your dream job, but you say, “Thank you for the offer. I would be happy to. But just to be clear, when I am done with college I would like to try to start as a Digital Artist as that is what I am studying.” And he would probably say, “I completely understand! That is why I want to give you this job, so to get your foot in the door and meet our artist department.”

Now even if you don’t get to work for them as a digital artist in the future, you will at least be able to put down that company as someone you did work for, and it might evolve into working for a different company at a job more suited to what you are wanting. Or if the market is bad (like it is today), then it will mature into a really good full playing job. This makes it an excellent plan B.

A year ago I left my retail job of 8 or so years to work for a great paying job where the President of the company knew me very well. I could have dropped my retail job all together, but I really enjoyed it, respected the owner of the company, and wanted to keep doors open. So for the following year I worked for both companies, the retail job was a good Plan B should my new job not work out. After a year of trying to adjust and listening to many different advices from non-bias sources, I decided to leave that job and go back to my first job. My pay at the small business is 2/3rd of that great paying job (and soon to be 1/3rd after Christmas), but my job description was upgraded to Business Consultant; a dream position to me. I might be eating ramen noodles instead of steak every night, but at least I’m much happier. I was glad to have that Plan B.

And even now I have more plans in the works to keep my income up, but I cannot rest with just one, so I have several of them. Now the down side to having back-up plans is you end up with too many options! It is like trying to spin plates. The more plats you have, the more impressive you are to people but the harder it is to keep them all spinning. It makes for very little free time and everyday you end up exhausted even if you didn’t really do much. This is a tough lesson I’m learning right now myself.

Solution? Restrain yourself to only having so many projects, then zoom in and focus on those projects. When new opportunities come along, weigh it not based on itself but based on how it compares to your current projects. If you are like me you will see the potential in many many things which makes you want to pursue every idea out there. Do that and you will fail at all your projects (they will never get done).

Last thing I would say is stay realistic to what you can and cannot do, you are not superman, but you still have talents. Find them, focus on them, and stay organized.

Till next time!

-King Steven